Update, April 16, 2018: EA promise not to repeat the mistakes of Battlefront II in their upcoming games.
Despite putting out some of the industry’s biggest titles over the decades, EA haven’t had a stellar reputation among gaming fans. They’ve been voted the “Worst Company in America” - more than once - and the controversy over Battlefront II’s microtransactions and loot boxes hasn’t helped the company’s reputation.
Here's everything we know about Anthem so far.
With multiple big titles coming up in the next twelve months, like Bioware’s Anthem and the next Battlefield, EA have plenty of ground to make up after the loot box debacle. “We can shy away from it and pretend like it didn’t happen,” chief design officer Patrick Söderlund tells The Verge, “or we can act responsibly and realize that we made some mistakes, and try to rectify those mistakes and learn from them.”
Like many modern AAA games, Battlefront II was designed to be played over a long period of time, supplemented by free DLC and content updates. Söderlund says “like a lot of other games on the market, to be able to afford to do that we had an idea of getting returns from that. But at the same time, we got it wrong. And as a result, we had to take very quick and drastic actions to turn everything off, and we’ve since worked and redesigned the progression system.”
Söderlund says players are returning thanks to the changes, with the larger progression update set to hit this week. “People seem to think that for the most part, we got it right. It doesn’t mean we will stop. We’ll continue to improve the game, we’ll continue to push on these things, and we’ll have to be very cautious with what this means for future products.”
And for the next titles from EA, Söderlund says they’ll be learning from Battlefront. “For games that come next, for Battlefield or for Anthem, [players have] made it very clear that we can’t afford to make similar mistakes. And we won’t.”
Söderlund says “It’s clear to us that players see the company differently than we do.” But, he says they need to show fans through action that “we’re serious about treating the players fair, and we’re here to make the best possible entertainment that we can.”
Original story, November 7, 2017: Brenon Holmes, creative director on EA and Bioware's coming Anthem, has taken to Reddit to talk loot boxes. He says their implementation in the keenly anticipated game is "an ongoing discussion," but that the sceptical view taken by many gamers is "definitely represented" on the team.
Responding to a thread expressing concern about Anthem's potential for a "toxic" loot box economy, Holmes says:
"I hear you. We're talking a fair bit about this at the moment. I can't really talk about it too much, but it's an ongoing discussion.
"And if it helps at all, we're gamers too. A bunch of folks on the team have similar positions on monetization, so that perspective is definitely represented."
On a separate thread, a number of Redditors picked up on former Bioware designer Manveer Heir's despondent comments about the spread of the service model and microtransactions. Replying, Holmes makes clear that Heir was never on the Anthem team and thus would have no insight into its monetisation plans.
Anthem is commonly supposed to be EA's answer to arch-rival Activision's Destiny, perhaps the industry's leading example of a big service game. Destiny 2 shipped with several premium editions, DLC in a season pass, and microtransaction-based loot boxes. It has also become the best-selling console game of the year despite only launching in September.
Anthem was only announced at E3 this year, so it's no surprise that a final decision on its monetisation model is still pending. But if it's truly intended to be a Destiny killer, we can certainly see why gamers are braced for loot boxes.